Oranges, Poranges: a compendium of the long weekend

An earthquake in Indonesia; of a magnitude that, if it struck in California, would result in probably less than 50 deaths instead causes thousands. I don’t know what to say to this.

Saturday was a trip to Bonfante Gardens with Mike, Jann, his sister, and her 4-year-old — where do 4-year-olds get such energy? A beautiful family theme park in Gilroy, about 30 miles from here, it put Great America to shame. Where Great America has litter and gravel and weeds, Bonfante Gardens has (as you’d expect from the name) landscaping and greenery and water and butterflies. And far more rides, although they are not really adult-oriented. That doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh my ass off riding their equivalent of the tea cups, spinning it so much that we all ended up scruched together on one side.

I grew tired of waiting, and relieved my orange tree’s branches of their heavy burden on Sunday. My very own fruit!
Baked some pecan-carrot bread, but not without a challenge: my oven doesn’t heat properly, and the temperature that it settles at is completely unpredictable. I called the home warranty company a month ago, but have never heard from them again so it’s time for another call tomorrow.

Today? Nothing. Was planning on doing some shopping for a fold-out couch to put in my office, so that at least a few people could stay here during my August party; but waited for a call from my “shopping assistant” that never came, and instead sat around outside in the sun, reading old Molly Ivins columns and marveling at how we should have seen our current “leadership” coming but instead let them divert our attention for years.

Time for double secret probation

I just saw a bit of George Bush’s non-apology mea culpa from yesterday, where he said that his assertion to “bring it on” may have been “misinterpreted” in other countries.
He struck me as a frat boy who had been called into the dean’s office and pretended to be sorry, saying that he’d learned his lesson… before going back out and wreaking havoc.

On a mostly unrelated note, I see that NewsHour has finally updated their on-air graphic look. I’m not impressed.
I’m not just saying this because I was up for a graphics job at NewsHour about 7 years ago, when I would have updated it instantly instead of waiting almost another decade. Really.
Now maybe it’s time to redo those old flats that they wheel in behind Jim Lehrer. Unlike Washington Week, which is produced by WETA and features gorgeous set design, NewsHour is its own world, produced by a separate company.

The glass is two thirds full

I can always find the down side to anything.
For example: I’ve been trying to restrict my calories because I simply eat too much high-calorie junk.
But what I’ve discovered is that by eating less and eating lower-calorie foods, I have become a very cheap date: one glass of wine now makes me woozy.
And tonight, with my Thai chicken dinner (about 220 calories), I’m already dizzy from just 1/3 of my Cosmopolitan.

Hearing things?

Amazing how people react.
Someone said they heard some “pops” in, of all places, a parking garage, they thought it was gunfire.
Suddenly, there are police and ambulances everywhere, streets are closed and offices are locked down.
Cable news programs throw up the “Breaking News” banner and start to speculate, maps of the area are displayed and anchors start to point to buildings and pretend to know how many exits there are from the garage, they interview people about where they parked. Google Maps are displayed, zooming into the area.
Within minutes, we have heard more about the Rayburn Senate Office Building parking garage layout than we ever wanted to know — for instance, that you enter on G3…
Drama! Senate committees close their doors because of gunfire in the building! Punditry! Experts tell us what the police are up to! Thrills! Tourists are breathlessly chased by TV reporters for quotes! Pathos! People worry that their Hummers might have been scratched! Wasted time! With the captions “LIVE” and “NEW VIDEO”, the cable stations are filling time with pointless pictures of people standing around, TRAPPED in sumptuous offices and committee rooms; any time now they will be like the Donner party — cut off from their usual lunch spots, they may soon turn on each other, with the Democrats being eaten first.
Mark my words, it will turn out to be car backfire (in a garage? How is that possible?)
Wouldn’t it be amazing if this level of attention was paid to every sound of gunfire, no matter where it was? Say, even 10 blocks away from the Capitol in Southeast Washington?

If I was the conspiratorial type [grin] I’d say that there was some news being quietly released today by the White House that is not a positive item (for instance, Bush and Blair timidly offering non-apologies for their mistakes), and that some Republican staffer was told to call in a vague report of “what sounded like gunshots” in order to dominate the news cycle. It also has the side effect of reminding everyone to be scared.

I am struck by the complete and utter pointlessness of cable news; I’m watching CNN right now for no apparently good reason other than the fact that the TV is on. I can’t even begin to list the silliness that passes for “journalism” here. Such a list would be endless.
Here’s a guy standing in front of a wall of video screens. One screen has a picture of the Capitol dome, one has a reporter live on the scene, and four screens are combined to show a Google map. And the guy actually called this sophisticated new technology. Um, a video wall? That invention of the 1980s? He then points out a blue dot on the Google map, which indicates where the reporter is speaking from. This is the multi-million dollar, international media version of “look! Here’s my house on Google Maps!”
Some reporter — with a modicum of intelligence and restraint — reports that a woman was transported in an ambulance, that she wasn’t shot and it was something unrelated — and instantly, a caption appears on the screen in all caps: WOMAN TAKEN AWAY IN AMBULANCE with no further context or important information.
Are there other things happening in the world today? For instance, what’s new with the Plame case? With Bush & Blair’s “missteps?” Or the confirmation of the architect of Bush’s domestic spying plan to be the head of the CIA? Why are they showing us, over and over, video of a committee chair telling people to close the door to the room? This is precisely how we reached a point where the Bush administration has learned to manipulate the media so well — they are so predictably mindless and anxious for any story that can be hyped.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that this is a drill for today’s (or tomorrow’s) tsunami that is due to wipe out the Atlantic coasts because of a comet fragment about to strike us.

“Michael, my door is ah-jah.”

There was a great commercial for AT&T on last night during Lost, it featured robotic, digital voices through history. One of the voices was of KITT, the car in Knight Rider.
Am I the only one who noticed that KITT was registered in Virginia, and had a Virginia inspection sticker on his windshield? I had no idea that KITT was living in my home state.
Just an interesting bit of trivia on cultural differences — here in California, cars don’t have stickers on the windshield. In Virginia, you have two: the county tax sticker and the state inspection sticker. I left my Arlington county sticker on for nostalgia purposes; people here are puzzled by it and peer closely to see what it is.
Cars also don’t need license plate stickers on the front plate here — in fact, I don’t think you even need the front plate.
Ironically, in Virginia hybrid cars get a Clean Fuel license plate which allows access to car pool lanes. In California, that’s too easy: you have to fill out forms, pay fees, buy transponders, and then stick 3 ugly fluorescent stickers on your car for that privilege.

Bring on the convictions

Now we know one reason that the conservatives have been so hyped up to take over the judiciary for so long: they knew the day was coming when they would start to face indictments.
I can’t possibly list all the indictments and investigations and even convictions that are swirling around the right wing (and a couple of Democrats, as well). But today’s conviction of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are somewhat satisfying — if only the conviction would force more people to look deeper into their backgrounds, their friends, and the cabal that they were part of.
I’m just saying, Ken Lay spent more than one night sleeping at Dubya’s White House; he donated more than $651,000 to Republicans (and only slightly less than $62,000 to Democrats, which means that Republicans will jump up and say, “He gave to Democrats, too!). He was on the Bush transition team, for crying out loud. He and his cronies caused the power outages that wracked California and subsequently engineered the recall of a Democratic governor and the installation of a Republican.
But hey, I’m just some nutty conspiracy theorist. The right wing isn’t that organized and methodical, right?

Heartless Republicans, part two

I know that the Washington Post columnist’s story about Bill Frist performing heart surgery on gorillas at the National Zoo was supposed to be a feel-good story — at least, I think it was — but I was floored and horrified when I read this in the seventh paragraph:

In medical school, Frist cut out a dog’s heart and held it in his palm. It continued to beat for a slippery minute.

I think I am going to be sick.
Some other scary quotes, which — given Frist’s right-wing views, seem almost like they have double meanings:

“I fell in love with him in his scrub suit, with blood splattered on his clogs. I see him doing that, almost more than as a politician.”

“These gorillas seem to develop heart disease,” said Frist (R-Tenn.). “It’s totally unknown. I did a lit search — nothing. The fact that we’re working on the edge of the unknown is fun.”

“Isn’t this exciting?” And Frist slipped an IV needle into Kuja’s vein. His gloves turned red with gorilla blood.

Hair Today

Remember when I started to grow my hair back at the end of March? The end of the bald experiment? I promised to document it as it grew back, but after a while I forgot — sorry. I’m flighty that way. But here’s a short movie anyway — it took about 5 weeks to get to where it is now (the last pic in the sequence)…

It takes a lot to get ‘em right

I don’t know if this is a statement about the lack of anything on television — or my own strange tastes: after fruitless searches through the online program guide, I started browsing through Comcast’s On Demand menus. And now, I’m watching “The Facts of Life.”

Where we are

So. Anyway.
Two words I just realized that I use a lot on this blog.
Here’s what’s up.
I think I used to post a lot more political stuff on the blog, I think because I was so outraged and felt so isolated, like I was the only person out there with any common sense. Now that more and more people are waking up to the truth about George W. Bush and his cabal, I don’t feel so alone anymore — frankly, I don’t know anyone who supports the current administration or the current Congress. Thus, I don’t feel the need to blog about every new outrage anymore, because so many others are doing so — my favorite is the acerbic wit of Pesky Apostrophe.
So, what else, then?
I’m working on a bunch of freelance projects — I’m still not a point where the freelance work covers my living expenses, and I still have problems learning how to charge enough to cover everything. Still, a few videos here and there and some books and brochures keep me from completely losing all my design skills while I luxuriate in unemployment.
I’m all googly about the impending release of Sara’s album; today I discovered that it is available for pre-order on Amazon — if you want to buy it, please use the link on her website rather than Amazon, because through the bizarre quirks of the retail system, she (and thus, I) actually loses money on Amazon sales. Press coverage is starting, and the list of radio stations who have added it to their playlist keeps growing every day. I’m so proud of her, happy to be part of it, and thrilled that yet more people will hear her talents. Next month, I’ll be off to Austin for the CD release party! Woo hoo!
Other things on the radar include scraping, sanding, and repainting my garage; and getting ready for my birthday bash in August. I’ve already got at least 10 confirmed guests traveling to San Jose, and I’m starting to deal with the logistics of making sure everyone is picked up at the airport, fed, and housed and has a great time.
And that’s the way it is, May 22, 2006.

Smile, You’re on Chopper Camera

About 15 minutes ago, the choppers arrived — first there was one that just hovered over the house. I puzzled about what could be happening, thinking that there was a fugitive in the neighborhood; then Sky 7 HD showed up on the other side of the house. They’re still up there, the helicopter buzz is loud and reminds me of the time that Elian Gonzalez stayed at the house on my office campus years ago, the media trying to get camera shots in any way possible.
Nothing on TV, but I finally found what it’s all about: I-880 has a sinkhole where it runs one block from my house. I was riding my scooter right by it this morning, noting the workmen but didn’t look down at the freeway to see the exciting spectacle.
It was caused by groundwater flowing underneath the roadway — it rained some yesterday — and is of interest because our neighborhood has had severe groundwater problems this winter, with flooded basements everywhere.
Let’s hope my house doesn’t suddenly get swallowed up.

Update, 5:31pm: It’s funny how as soon as the local news switched over to national news, the choppers fled the scene — literally. Quiet reigns again at sinkhole central, except for the traffic jam.

Why I squashed my Blackberry

Ah, the saga comes to an end.
First off, I have to say that T-Mobile provided better customer service and a less-crippled device than Cingular, at half the price.
Still, what I realized over the last week is that the Blackberry system has one major, major flaw: there’s no spam filtering.
My Blackberry had become a hyper-efficient way for spammers to send me emails, 24/7. Now, my mail server has spam filters, as does my mail program. But the Blackberry service just reaches into my mail server and grabs everything, before it is filtered. Every morning I was waking to at least a hundred spams on my handheld, and with no junk mail filtering in the service or on the device, that meant that I spent a lot of time scrolling and deleting emails.
On top of that, every time it beeped it was a notice to me that I’d just gotten a new spam.
I realized last night that the device had become a spam obsession with me, as I tried desperately to figure out ways to prevent all the junk mail from being pushed to it; and that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was spending far too much time annoyed by it and annoying those around me with it. It had to go.
I’ll miss it for a few days. But only a few.